Purely decorative? Technical analysis of a fifteenth-century northern European parade shield

User menu

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Sanders, Katy; Harrison, Lynne; Higgitt, Catherine; Young, Christina;

Source:

Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number S1, p.268-278 (2012)

Abstract:

A fifteenth-century decorative parade shield (1863,0501.1) held at the British Museum is a finely crafted, three-dimensional object thought to be of Burgundian origin. Little was known about its painting technique, construction, and function before the study presented in this paper. Concerns over the object's stability and specific mounting needs for its inclusion in the recently refurbished medieval galleries prompted the detailed research undertaken collaboratively between the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and the British Museum. There were three areas of focus: a study of the original materials and techniques, a survey of the conservation history and materials, and recommendations for display. Analysis revealed that the painting method was analogous to fifteenth-century northern European easel painting practice and the structure similar to that reported in parade shields of the period and region. The study also revealed extensive damage to the wooden core. Further damage to the shield's edges, and degradation of the numerous repair materials, have left these areas vulnerable to environmental fluctuations. These findings prompted development of a supporting mount, identification of optimum environmental conditions and recommendations for future conservation. The accompanying stylistic research supported a fifteenth-century origin and suggested links to the ‘Master of the Princely Portraits’. It is likely that the shield was used for display purposes, perhaps during parades at court festivals, or as a tournament prize.